Teaching Zebra-girl to knit

One of my aims for half-term was to teach Zebra-girl to knit. I was slightly apprehensive about this project as I am not a good knitter - my tension is always wrong, and I always leave projects half-finished...but I did really enjoy it as a child, I just seem to have lost that skill along the way somewhere. When I was small all of the mummies would come into the tiny village school that I attended and we'd sit around in little knitting circles and create small coloured squares that were eventually sewn together into large blankets for the PDSA to keep donkeys warm (it used to be the People's Dispensary for Sick Animals...but I see that it has now morphed into 'Pets in Need of Vets'). This really caught my imagination and as the grown-ups chattered I would excitedly think about the soft grey poorly donkey that might be warmed by my holey square. Once the donkey-project ended (well, maybe it carried on, but we moved to Australia at that point) I don't remember knitting again until I was about 10 years old, when I suddenly became quite prolific in the manufacture of knitted glove puppets and I remember being particularly delighted by the creation of a grey elephant with a tubular trunk shooting out of his face.

So, with all this in mind, I thought it was essential that my little Zebra be taught (I told my mother that it had the potentially added bonus of her being able to make me all the clothes that I want, but lack the ability to knit once she is older...she said that sounded like I had 'sweat shop' intentions for her. Oh dear, how easily one's ideas can be misconstrued....).

Zebra-girl is very gratifying to make things with as she is always so enthusiastic and her excitement had her leaping round the house when she saw the wool that I'd chosen for her. We decided to make a blanket for her bear. Never having taught someone to knit before, I don't know whether she was slow or quick to pick it up, but I felt surprised and delighted that by the sixth row she was able to hold it all by herself and knit away, slowly but steadily. So...I thought just in case anyone else is thinking of teaching their small ones, I might make a list of things that we found helpful (not least finding the most wonderfully knowledgeable lady in my local yarn shop).

  • When I was initially trying to teach the steps that form each stitch we found the best way of sitting was in a little boat so that I was directly behind her and able to hold her hands to guide her through the actions.
  • I gradually reduced the amount of steering that my hands were doing on hers, until eventually they were just there to give her confidence, by the sixth row she didn't need them there at all....and we could return to sitting normally.
  • For various reasons I think a thick yarn is good to start with: the bulk of it helps the child see progress being made more quickly, it's less fiddly and the inevitable holey bits can be fluffed over slightly more.
  • But even though I chose a thick yarn I tried also to pick one where the strands didn't divide up too easily (not entirely successful).
  • I chose a wool that has a graduated colour...this really made a difference to persevering - Ours blended gradually from pink, to red, to orange and Zebra was so desperate to get to the orange bit that this became almost as exciting as the prospect of the actual item being completed.
  • I bought children's knitting needles - they are a little shorter, and have a nice character on the top.

But what have I unleashed? Some sort of knitting addict. My little one can barely stop to eat she loves knitting so much. We have been teasing her that by the end of the week she may have created a giant knitted tea cosy to go over the top of our entire house. She giggles at this and carries on clickety-clicking.

This morning we sat in bed knitting next to one another (which seems wonderfully companiable and grown-up) and she suddenly exclaimed 'it's so funny, I actually look like a real old person knitting when you look down at my hands. I'm just like an old lady!' - she was so delighted by this that one can only assume that she has no issues with the aging process.

Below is a picture of her progress so far - you'll see she has gained a few stitches along the way...but the blanket could probably have done with being a little wider, so we'll look on that as a bonus. She went to bed an hour later than usual tonight and 'just one more row' has quickly become a familiar phrase.

It would appear that in the last fortnight my crafting posts have been mainly child-centred...I've been feeling oddly unenthusiastic about any of my own projects. I have stacks (literally) of wonderful fabrics waiting to be turned into lovely things...but nothing seems to be getting made. But I do have a determination not to rename my blog 'crafting with mother'....so I must sew my way out of this rut!


  1. Go Zebra girl! There's a five (and thirty five) year old here desperate to learn too. Perhaps she could give us lessons?!!

  2. Here's a link for a good project for zebra-girl once she's done with the blanket. I haven't attempted it yet, but it would make a cute spring present. It's one square that you fold just so to make a bunny. http://www.heartstringsfiberarts.com/bunny.shtm

  3. That is so cool that Zebra girl loves to knit! I just took my first knitting class yesterday and find myself saying "Just one more row" too.

  4. what a lovely story (i for one love the kid stories :-) and the tips are indispensable.

    ummmm, i really don't know how you feel about memes, but i hope it's o.k. that i've tagged you:


  5. Oh never apologise for posting kid-craft stories, it's essential to know that the future of crafting is in good hands! And that's a great project from Simone...

  6. how wonderful! zebra-girl...i need a knitting lesson too! i love the old lady reference : ) keep going wih those rows! x

  7. I had my first lesson the other week with my Nan, and enjoyed it too - although might be slightly slower at picking it up than Zebra girl on account of my age!. My first knitted project didn't look disimilar to the photo's you show and the "one more row" syndrome was abound in my house. I think K thought I was mad!

  8. I'm a beginner too and have got the Usborne 'How to Knit' book, it's a children's book and has some simple projects in it.
    I was knitting while watching the children's swimming lesson - my daughter was horrified!

  9. How lovely. My mum taught me to knit when I was small too, and I look back on it with fondness. My mum was always knitting and I loved our trips to the wool shop and looking through the patterns - they're very special times in my memories. And at least I can remember them which is more than I can say for lots of other things :)

    and I know what you mean about the mojo having deserted you. i got a little of it back, but sometimes there's just no telling why or when it goes and comes back. There's little point in sewing without enthusiasm though, because then it's work, and that's not the point.

    Hope zebra girl enjoys her knitting today

  10. Oh well done Zebra Girl - it looks fantastic. I just love the old lady comment - hilarious and one my mother will love. And do you realise that the only other person I have ever heard say 'poorly' is the girlfriend I mentioned the other day - weird!! So you lived over here did you - where, when, why - I'm such a sticky nose!!

  11. Well done Zebra girl!
    I think it is so important to keep knitting alive and it is fun to teach the little ones. I have a little peom to share with you.

    Under the fence,

    (put the needle under the stitch)

    Catch the sheep,

    (wrap the yarn around)

    Back we go

    (pull the needle and yarn back and through)

    And off we leap!!!

    (pull the stitch off)

    It is great to help little ones remeber the order of the stitch!


  12. I bet Zebra girl picks up knitting quicker than me, my hubbo bought me 'How to Knit' book for Valentines day! So I just need to get my supplies now.

  13. great knitting zebra girl, I was teaching Miss K to knit last summer, she didn't do half as well as that, and sadly she's abandoned it, I may have to re-instate lessons, with help from that very cute poem! - thankyou across the pond

  14. Well done Zebra girl!!! I can't knit a stitch!

  15. Hello Florence, I am new to your gorgeous blog but have just read through the entire thing! Gosh does that make me a stalker!!!!! xx

  16. Hi Florence, Never say sorry about talking about your children and what you do with them. Here is a poem which is oh so true! Me being the age I am can relate to it so well.
    My hands were busy through the day
    I didn't have much time to play
    The little games you asked me too
    I didn't have much time for you
    I'd wash your clothes, I'd sew and cook
    But when you'd bring your treasure book
    And ask me "Please to share my fun"
    I'd say "A little later on"
    I'd tuck you up all safe at night
    I'd hear your prayers, turn out the light
    Then tiptoe softly to the door
    I wish I'd stayed a minute more
    For life is short, the years rush past
    A little child grows up so fast
    No longer to be at your side
    Those precious secrets to confide
    The picture books are put away
    There are no longer games to play
    No goodnight kiss, no prayers to hear
    That all belongs to yesteryear
    My hands once busy are now so still
    The days are long, and hard to fill
    I wish I could go back and do
    The little things you asked me to.

    Just keep doing what you are doing Florence.
    Love Hazel

  17. Completely makes up with the lack of play-doh! You are a sublime mother.

  18. Well, not only have you inspired your daughter, but you have inspired one 35 year old mum that maybe it is time to learn this fan-dangled craft known as 'knitting'. For once, we have a cool day here in Brissie, and the idea of knitting while drinking a cup of hot chocolate is sounding infinitely appealing!

  19. Is it shocking that I want a pair of needles just like hers. And you are SO right on the variegated yarn - I am exactly the same - need to find out how the colour change works out! Just one more row kids and then I'll make dinner....

  20. What a smart young lady you have! You will be so proud of her. Isn't it a pleasure teaching our precious little ones to create! I know that my kiddos are my greatest inspiration.

  21. What fun, Zebra girls knitting is really good and in a fab yarn too. Cute needles!

  22. What a sweet post and what a lucky girl you have. And I loved your recollections of knitting squares for the donkeys--so fun!

  23. There is only one problem with teaching your children to knit - sometimes they turn out to be more dedicated than you. And then they say in shocked tones 'Are you STILL knitting that little thing?' and similar crushing remarks.

    Don't say I didn't warn you!

  24. I taught my Lizzie to knit & crochet last year. My husband laughs when he sees us both frowning in concentration at our work. It's been a great bonding thing for us & she loves making blankets & scarves for her stuffies. I will post the adorable knitting needles I bought for her on my trip to Toronto.

  25. aww thats lovely.
    I am teaching my 3 girls to knit.....its been challenging to say the least!

  26. I love this story!

    I am starting to hatch secret plans to get my two to sew. The first step with this sort of thing is always letting them see you making things (sewing, knitting, cooking - all of it). I loved seeing my daughter's first attempts at sewing last week. I took so many photos that I think she felt like a bit of a star.

    She will remember making this first blanket for the rest of her life!

  27. What a wonderful post! And I'm in serious envy... I can't knit a stitch!


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